DECEMBER 15 (Reuters) – Black feminist author and intellectual Bell Hooks, whose pioneering work took on new urgency amid the racial justice protests that swept the United States after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, died on Wednesday in her home in Berea, Kentucky, her sisters said.
Hooks was the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins, who used the lowercase nickname to honor her grandmother.
“Gloria Jean Watkins’ family is deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved sister,” sisters Gwenda Motley and Valeria Watkins said in a statement released on Twitter.
Hooks died at home surrounded by family and friends, they said. She was 69.
Hooks was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, the fourth of seven siblings.
She published her first book of poetry in 1978 and by the time she died she had written 40 books, which were translated into 15 languages, her sisters said.
After studying and teaching at several universities, she returned to Kentucky and taught at Berea College, which established the Bell Hooks Center as an inclusive place for historically underrepresented students.
Her work on racism, feminism, gender and other issues attracted particular attention during the 2020 protests.
“The family is honored that Gloria has received numerous awards, honors and international fame for her work as a poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic and social activist,” her sisters wrote.
“We are proud to call her sister, friend, confidant and influencer.”
Tributes to Hooks flooded social media.
“Devoured her work, taught her work and taught me so much,” wrote Maya Harris, activist, author and sister of US Vice President Kamala Harris, on Twitter. “An immeasurable legacy and teachings that will live on forever.”
Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University in Los Angeles and one of the original organizers of Black Lives Matter, said Hooks’ work had a profound impact on her.
“She changed my life. She made me who I am in so many ways,” Abdullah wrote. “Thank you, sister, for your beautiful, powerful life’s work and spirit.”
The Washington Post, citing her family, reported that the cause of death was end-stage renal failure.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien
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